WE Week: Rodney Hopson and Sonya Horsford on “But can you do it” questions of evaluator credibility and organizational capacity: The nuances of evaluator credibility

Greetings evaluation colleagues!

We are Rodney Hopson and Sonya Horsford, and we recently started H&H Strategies, Ltd., a DC-based consulting group providing strategic planning and evaluation solutions to organizations committed to improving program and service delivery in the nonprofit, for profit, government, university, education, and social service sectors. In addition to serving as principals of this new firm, we are both faculty members in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University focusing on education policy, leadership, research, and evaluation.

In a recent evaluation with a client, despite providing background and experience, we encountered questions and concerns about our ability to meet our client’s changing needs. To address such concerns, we offer some “hot tips” and “lessons learned” that focus directly on the issue of evaluator credibility and reiterate the importance of establishing credibility and trust as early as possible in the process (preferably before it begins!) to maximize the effectiveness in working with clients who may have limited background or experience in program evaluation.

Hot Tips:

  • The discussion on evaluator credibility is a dynamic to be established and maintained throughout the evaluation.
  • Evaluator credibility is not to be confused with a set of documents like a vita or a set of credentials presented before an evaluation begins.

Lessons Learned:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Washington Evaluators (WE) Affiliate Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from WE Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “WE Week: Rodney Hopson and Sonya Horsford on “But can you do it” questions of evaluator credibility and organizational capacity: The nuances of evaluator credibility”

  1. Andrea Leatherdale

    Thank you for your contribution to the AEA365 – I found your blog re-affirming to my past experiences with program evaluations and current studies. As a Nurse Educator in a college program, I have been involved with several program evaluations as a program stakeholder. I particularly like that you mention establishing trust early in the process (even before beginning). As the saying goes, you may not get a second chance to make a good first impression. In addition to your Tips and Lessons, I would like to reinforce how important it is to establish evaluator credibility right from the start by coming into the process as an evaluator with a solid understanding of what the program is about, while recognizing the uniqueness of each program and expertise of stakeholders/staff to fill in knowledge gaps right from the outset. Perhaps the best question posed to stakeholders to capture credibility is: “Is there a question that I haven’t asked yet that I should be asking?” Acknowledging, respecting and sharing the question that you don’t know what you don’t know can actually go a long way to establish trust by building an honest partnership with the program experts. Evaluator credibility is indeed a critical aspect of the process and if it is compromised at any point, the trust in the process and results will definitely be challenged. A preemptive approach is an important consideration to build this credibility.

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